In studying science, it has surprised me again and again how many strange names there are for scientific things. The vocabulary is often ugly: borrowed from many languages, then chopped and pressed into our usage. Look at a junk food label if you don’t believe me. One of my instructors often takes pains to explain the origin of these names. Sometimes they are named after the scientist who discovered it, sometimes based on appearance, and sometimes based on function. He always says he prefers a name that is explanatory rather than a technical catalog sort of name. The reason: it helps us to remember what that thing is, or what it does.
To the man on the street, the name of Jesus doesn’t hold any special meaning. It is just a reference symbol. For many His name is filler in a sentence. For some, a source of jesting and mockery; For others still, a distant historic name that has little personal significance; and for a number who call themselves by that name, “Christian”, it is a good luck charm. But the name of Jesus wasn’t chosen because it had a pleasant ring to it. When my wife and I chose our children’s names that was an important factor. How does the name sound when you say it? Can you picture yourself calling the baby this name? And what about when he grows up? And of course we practiced saying them, and comparing the sound of competing names from baby books. Not so with Jesus. God had picked his name and delivered it to Joseph by an angel. That name was not picked because of how it sounded. It was picked because of what it meant. It was picked because of Jesus’ job description. In our country we used to have names based on job description: smith, wainwright, etc. I used to work with a man with the last name “Goldsmith.” Jesus name fits his calling.
In Matthew 1:21 we read, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” The name of Jesus means, “The LORD is salvation.” He is a savior, and it is important to note that he will save His people “FROM THEIR SINS.” The whole purpose for the baby in the manger was to rescue sinners from their sins. And that is what He does. He takes people who are full of themselves, miserable because of their shameful behavior, sick in sin, and he rescues them…from their sins. What that means is that people who are saved by this Jesus are saved from their old way of life. Not saved to remain in sin, but to leave it behind. When Jesus saves a sinner he picks them up and puts them on a new path, a wonderful path of serving him.
That is my experience. I heard the story of the Bible many times, but when I really began to listen to the story of Jesus in my high school years, my sins began to look worse and following Jesus looked better and better. Most people that I speak to don’t see that they need to be saved from anything. Except maybe election commercials! And they’re probably partly right. But every time you say the name of Jesus you are handling a loaded gun. Jesus’ name has distinct purpose. It tells us about His skills, His purpose. His name is His resume. He saves us from our sins and reconciles us to God. That is why we pray in Jesus’ name, and that is why we baptize in Jesus’ name.
Most Americans say they believe in Jesus. Do you know anything about the purpose of this name? Have you been saved from your sins?